Abstract - tyneholm
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Other photographic genres cater for the abstract so why not street photography? Let’s face it; there’s not always an abundance of material when we’re pounding the streets and we can struggle to find subject matter. But wherever we are there is always something to shoot, even if it’s an abstract.

Here are five abstract ideas for you to try NOW!…

  1. Night lights. Shoot out-of-focus lights at night with a wide-open aperture. This could be distant streetlights, store fronts or a bar or restaurant. To make sure the lights are blurred, focus manually on something that’s roughly 2 feet away (you can simply hold your hand at arm’s length in front of the camera and focus on that).
  2. Intentional camera movement (ICM). Deliberately move the camera during the exposure to create blurred trails. Experiment with different shutter speeds and the speed at which you move the camera.
  3. Shoot through a screen. Use semi-opaque surfaces, net curtains, plastic sheeting, or anything else that you can shoot through and distort the scene.
  4. Reflections in puddles. Look for shapes, colours, and patterns, reflecting in puddles. It’s usually best when the water is still, but you can get some interesting effects with ripples as well. Try using a wide-angle lens and position your camera close to the ground to create a dramatic reflected urban landscape.
  5. Shoot through wet windows. The combination of cold air outside and warm interiors usually means condensation on windows, which can make a great abstract. Try focusing on the water droplets on the window and let the subjects in teh background fall out of focus.

Treat each of these five ideas as a separate assignment and produce a set of six images for each theme. these could look great as a set of posters or framed prints, or even made into drinks coasters…

View the images


  • Try shooting abstracts in both colour and black and white.
  • Setting a wide aperture and focusing at a distance of around 2 feet should ensure dramatic abstract results when you photograph lights at night.
  • With ICM photographs try different shutter speeds and different speeds and directions of camera movement.
  • When shooting wet windows, focus on the window itself and not the subjects behind it.

Field Notes

  • Experiment lots and be prepared to try masses of combinations before you get it right.
  • If you’re putting a set of pictures together don’t mix up the styles too much – keep to the same size and aspect ratio and use either colour or monochrome, not both.
  • A great time to shoot reflections in puddles is when the sun comes out after a rain shower. Night time shots work well too.
  • Screens are all around us and range from fog and mist to man-made screens like those on a bus stop.